Island Conservancy biologists say the deer must be eliminated to save the island’s native population of plants and animals
Animal rights activists are protesting the Catalina Island Conservancy’s plans to use sharpshooters in helicopters to eliminate the California island’s entire mule deer population.
According to Fox 11, biologists with the Island Conservancy, which is the nonprofit trust in charge of conservation and protecting the habitat of about nine-tenths of the island that is mostly wild, say the deer must be eliminated to protect the native wildlife.
"The deer have over-browsed the land, destroying natural habitat along with the vegetation that’s needed to help reduce wildfire risks and soil erosion," reads the Catalina Conservancy website.
The director of Catalina’s Humane Society says, "Deer are part of the island, have been here for over a hundred years, and we need to find a better way to control the herd’s numbers," said the director of Catalina’s Humane Society.
A "Save the Deer" petition already has more than 12,000 signatures and organizers are seeking more. The island’s mule deer population fluctuates, depending on the weather, between 500 and 2,000. Residents are allowed permits to hunt the animals, under state guidelines.
"We live off that meat," said one resident to Fox 11, "and we could help keep the numbers down."
But Conservancy biologists say simply decreasing the deer population through hunting doesn’t solve the problem. They also say fencing and the biological birth control used on other animals like bison on the island are not feasible. They say in order for the islands native plant and animal species to thrive, the mule deer must be gone.
In response to pressure from angry residents, and out of worry that tourism could be negatively affected by the deer cull, the Avalon City Council just voted to prohibit the hunting and trapping of wild animals within city limits, which is where they spend much of their time feeing off residents’ lawns.
This vote stops the Conservancy from baiting the deer away from populated areas into areas where they can be shot.
In an email to FOX 11, the Conservancy writes that, "The City Ordinance is focused on the limited number of deer that are within the city limits, so its impact is minimal," and plans to continue with the plan, explaining they are trying to do this with minimal effect on the humans living on the island, but, "It has to be done if we are to save Catalina."
"Not if we can help it," said the people behind the "Stop the Slaughter of Mule Deer on Catalina Island" petition.
The hunt is currently planned for next year.
For more information, you can visit Catalina Conservancy's website by clicking here.